Hurricane-impacted Panhandle gets help from St. Pete community

Tony Macon, left, discussing travel plans to the Panhandle with Albert Lee, President and CEO of Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation.

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

PETERSBURG – Last month Hurricane Michael became the strongest storm ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, upgraded to a category 4 as it approached the coast. Homes and businesses were blown away, and lives were lost.

Tony Macon is the owner of Esquire Barber Shop and creator of ACT Right, a grassroots organization that brings the community of St. Pete together to support those in need. After hearing from family of the severe damage that hit Malone, Fla., and near his birth-town of Donalsonville, Ga., he visited the Panhandle the weekend after the hurricane landed and saw the devastation first hand.

Both towns have less than 3,000 residents according to the most recent census counts. “Nobody was taking things to those small little towns,” he asserted.

Donalsonville experienced a category 3 storm with winds of 115 miles to 150 per hour. The storm brought down mammoth trees and took out the power. Residents interviewed afterward spoke of losing their homes, saying that as much as half of the town of Donalsonville seemed to be “gone.”

Right across the state line, Malone, Fla., lived through the eye of the storm. Citizens spoke of the destruction, noting it was hard to recognize their town with all the trees and power lines down and the roads gone. Businesses were in ruins  such as an Auto Value Parts store that reported missing most of its roof.

“Saturday night I was driving down Highway 71, and I’m driving on power lines all across the roads. They didn’t have power, they didn’t have water,” Macon acknowledged, adding that the electricity-run pumps were all incapacitated.

“When I got back, I was telling people about how it was up there, and so God put it on my heart later that Monday evening and I started calling people in my phone.”

The south St. Pete community stood up to the challenge including his clients and people in his bible study who Macon said was happy to help out. He also approached the business community and various organizations, and people gave food, toiletries, paper towels, clothes – anything that would be useful.  Some helped pay for the trip expenses, including gas, motel and the rental of the 6-by-12 trailer.

Macon said what started out as a five-hour trip ended up as a 10-hour journey with God leading the way.

“The way things transpired, it was God, it wasn’t Tony. If it were Tony, Tony would have said ‘no.’ I was a small vessel doing what God wanted me to do.”

Once there, he was put in touch with community members and churches in both cities who happily agreed to take the donations.

“They were in good spirits; a disaster like that brings out the best in people. It shows where humanity lies. Everybody was in good spirits and helping each other out just like it was when we were in Hurricane Irma last year.”

Macon asserted, “It’s the community that came together. Everybody that came and did, acted right. If everybody acts right at some point during the day, it will make the world a better place.”

To learn more about ACT Right’s plans, you can reach Tony Macon at (727) 542-2189.

To reach J.A. Jones, email

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